Thursday, April 27, 2017

But For the Grace of God~

Yesterday, I read a couple of statements
that have troubled my heart ever since.
So much so that today,
in an attempt to settle this in my heart,
I have taken to processing this the only way I know how -
with my heart open to hear His Spirit
and my hands ready to write my way through to His conclusion.

Satan never attacks those he already has.

That's true. Satan only attacks his enemies.

A fellow Christian, undoubtedly going through a season of trial and hardship, had shared she should be glad in this struggle because . . . Satan never attacks those he already has.

Another Christian agreed with her statement and added . . . That's true. Satan only attacks his enemies.

Upon reading this, my heart stopped in its tracks.
And before I even realized it was happening, tears formed in my eyes.

Like watching a huge flat screen TV in my mind,
I began to see face after face after face after face.

Men, women, children.
Young, old, somewhere in between.
Rich, poor, middle class.
Skin of all color.
The human race.

As each face flashed before me,
I kept hearing the words of John 10:10 -
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.

To steal.
To kill.
To destroy.

Homelessness.
Road rage.
Abuse.
Drug overdoses.
Suicides.
Murders.
Human trafficking.

Broken homes.
Broken lives.
Broken people.

To think (as a Christian)
when we have a series of hardships come our way,
all hell is breaking loose against us because we are God's,
but isn't against those who are aren't,
well - I just don't even know what to do with that.

And the only conclusion I can come to,
all that my heart can believe
is that those who don't know God
are under attack in the most vilest and viscous of ways.

To try and navigate this life without Jesus -
can you imagine the hell of that?

To not know the peace, comfort, love, strength, hope found in Jesus -
can you imagine the hell of that?

To be ignorant of the devil's devices, to be blind to this thief -
can you imagine the hell of that?

Satan's attack on the Godless is
full throttle,
full blown,
full hell!

To think that we as Christians
somehow have it "worse" than non-believers -
it's just not even possible.

When trials and hardships come our way,
they should only make us more aware of the struggles of the Godless.

When heartache and heartbreak make its way to us,
it should only make us more compassionate to the hurts of those living without Christ.

When we as Christians are battling the devil,
it should only make us keenly aware of the intense struggle of those
who are battling the devil without the knowledge and power of God.

We as Christians fight Satan every day,
but praise God,
we don't do it in our own strength,
and we don't do it without the promise that no weapon formed against us will prosper.

Those without Christ,
honestly,
don't have a hope to stand on.

Those without Christ,
naturally,
don't have a strength to rely on.

Those without Christ,
heartbreakingly,
don't have God to run into
and as a result
are perishing under the relentless attack of Satan.

When Satan attacks us
it should propel us deeper and stronger to fight against
the attack of Satan on those he already has.

When Satan attacks us
it should make us fighter harder and longer and relentlessly
to win to God those who have yet to be set free.

There but for the grace of God, go I.
~Unknown









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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

When What's Lost is Found~

It comes drifting into my ears
on the waves of the wind
and sneaks up on my heart
in a most beautiful way -
the whistling of my elderly neighbor.

We have shared a fence for over 19 years.

And, for as long as I've known him,
each time he's been out in his yard,
my heart has been serenaded
by his carefree, whistle-while-you-work melody.

Day after day,
month after month,
year after year -
except for the
days and the months and the year
following the death of his sweet precious wife,
about six years ago now.

"Poor Mr. L.  Have you noticed, Handsome?  He's lost his whistle."

Lowering his head, and then lifting his eyes up to meet mine, he had nodded his head yes.

And really, who wouldn't have noticed.

Our little corner of the neighborhood minus his whistle
was just like the time the neighbors behind us
cut down the huge cottonwood tree that shaded our entire back yard.

It was missed.
And, the absence of it, undeniably noticeable.

And then one day it happened.
On a Sunday, matter of fact.

A basketball game on TV and my laptop in my lap,
my husband and I were enjoying leisurely time together
when . . .
through the open window,
on the waves of a gentle afternoon breeze,
it came drifting into our ears
and snuck up on our hearts
in a most beautiful way -
the whistling of our elderly neighbor.

I looked at my husband.
He looked at me.
And, without either of us saying a word,
we both stood up,
met in the middle of the room,
and exchanged a long hug and a sweet, tender kiss.

Then, we both just looked at each other and smiled.

And I can't help but wonder,
over these past 14 months,
(now that I am in his shoes)
has our elderly neighbor glanced in my direction,
and noticed something undeniably absent from me?

I have a feeling he probably has.

The look in his eyes
while we chit-chat over the fence
has said more than his words ever could.

I'm sorry you're going through this.

I know how hard it can be.

My heart hurts just knowing the hurt in yours.

Just give it some time.

It'll get better. It will.

And what this precious man doesn't realize,
what he couldn't possibly ever know,
is that in the melody of his whistle,
God has been singing to me
a beautiful song of hope.

If Mr. L. was able to find his whistle again,
maybe I will, too.

And while neighborhood living
with neighbors so close,
has never been my preferred way to live,
I'm thankful this elderly man is on
the other side of my fence,
especially during this season,
especially now.

Let us hold firmly to the hope that we have confessed, 
because we can trust God to do what he promised. 
Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds. 
You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, 
but you should meet together and encourage each other.  
Do this even more as you see the day coming.
~Hebrews 10:23-25

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles
so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled, 
we will be able to give them
the same comfort God has given us.
~2 Corinthians 1:3,4










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Monday, April 24, 2017

All. Over. Again.~

What started out as
"a little something for the birds"
has now morphed into
a whole lot of something for me.

"I think I'll pick up a little something for the birds,"
 my husband had said one day.
"With the winter months here,
let's be God's way of feeding them."
With a wink and a smile,
he was out the door.

His little something turned out to be bird seed.

And while his choice of seed must have been delicious,
we all know,
besides being a tasty menu item for birds,
seeds are also amazing encapsulations of potential new life.

Spring has proven this to be true,
as now,
smack dab in the center of our yard,
a not-my-kind-of-grass
has started to make its presence known.

Here, there, and even over there,
this unwanted, unwelcome grass is sprouting up.

Not wanting this grass to take over the entire yard,
I found myself wrestling back and forth with myself about what to do.

"Just look at it.  It's everywhere! What good is pulling it out going to do?"

"Yes, that's true. But, are you content to live with this grass,
day in and day out? Is this what you want in your backyard?"

"But, Self - take a good hard look! Do you know how hard it's going to be to pull out each clump of this new grass?  C'mon! It's going to be nearly impossible. And besides, for each one you pull, who knows how many new shoots are just waiting for the opportunity to pop up?"

"I know. I know. It's not going to be easy.  But, honestly, I don't think living with it is an option. I don't want this grass in my yard."

Finally, (and thankfully)
the strong-willed side of me outweighed the lazy side of me,
and the decision was made to remove this grass immediately.

My plan of action -
soak this area of the yard,
and then the following morning,
one clump at a time,
pull these babies up by their roots.

Today was the following morning.

As I sat on the patio,
drinking my morning coffee,
e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y comfortable and content,
I gazed out at the unsightly grass awaiting me.

And, I realized again
what we often fail to remember
and what we often tend to forget:
Sometimes, a decision will need to be made
over and over and over again
if we are to reap the desired results.

In order to get myself up out of my chair
and out into the yard,
I had to decide to tackle this project
all. over. again.

And, because I only made a small dent
in this ever-increasing grass population,
I will need to make this same decision again
tomorrow morning,
and the morning after that,
and many, many mornings after that,
all summer long.

It is this need to re-decide and re-commit each day
that has me pondering anew these words of Jesus:

But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say,  "There's the person who started that building and couldn't afford to finish it!"

Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him?"
~Luke 14:28-31

Before we start,
we have to count the cost.
Before we start
we have to decide if we are willing
to start again tomorrow,
and the day after that,
and the day after that.

Do we have what it takes to finish?

Starting is only profitable if we follow through to finishing.
And, starting isn't just a one time deal.
The kind of starting that leads to the finish line
is a kind of starting that starts again each day.

It's the kind of starting needed not only for
ridding my yard of unwanted grass,
but also for
completing a degree,
paying off a loan,
losing the extra weight,
breaking free from the addiction,
reaching retirement,
raising a child,
making it to "til death do us part".

It's also the kind of starting needed
to be a disciple of Christ.

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. 
But don't begin until you count the cost.
~Luke 14:26-28

Every moment,
of every day,
we have to decide
all. over. again.
to follow our Savior.

It's the kind of starting needed
(with the precious, ever-present help of His Spirit)
to walk away from temptation,
to overcome evil with good,
to do unto others as we would have them do unto us,
to be salt and light,
to face persecution,
to take up our cross and follow Him,
to run the race before us, finish, and finish well.

Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.
~C. S. Lewis

It's not enough to decide to start.
We have to keep deciding
all. over. again.
until we finish.








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Friday, April 21, 2017

When You Think You've Lost Your Faith~

So many times we think we have faith until
we find ourselves in a place that has us questioning God,
that in turn,
takes us to a place that has us questioning our faith in God.

We hear a diagnosis.
We get "let go" from our job.
We receive divorce papers.
We stand in a cemetery.

Blindsided and knocked off our feet,
we start to wrestle with God about the "why"?

Only sometimes,
most times, in fact,
when it comes to knowing the "why",
God chooses to remain silent.

And this is where the questioning of our faith begins.

It's easy to have faith
when all is as we think it should be.
It's easy to have faith
when life is good,
and it seems God is good, too.

But - what about when the ground crumbles beneath us?

If we are standing on faith in God,
and not faith in our situations and our circumstances,
we will still be able to stand.

This is what faith is -
standing when we don't know what,
standing when we don't know when,
standing when we don't know where,
standing when we don't know how -
because we know WHO.

Everything is our life can change in a heartbeat,
but God never changes.

Faith is faith when we don't have all the answers
and still believe.
Faith is faith when we don't understand the why
and still believe.
Faith is faith when we don't know what, when, where or how
and still believe.

And, this.
Especially this:
Faith is faith even when
we still feel pain,
we still feel anger,
we still feel hurt,
we still feel left wondering why.

Because I think what we sometimes forget is this:
It is possible to have faith
and feel as though you are drowning in a sea of emotions
simultaneously.

Faith can still be there
even in the tears,
even in the heartache,
even in the pain,
even in the struggle.

Don't allow your emotions to convince you
you've lost your faith.

Don't allow your emotions to "mix up"
the losses in your life.

You may have lost your health, but faith still remains.
You may have lost your job, but faith still remains.
You may have lost your spouse, but faith still remains.
You may have lost your loved one, but faith still remains.

This is the very essence of faith in God.

It stays
even when,
in the midst of,
and in spite of.

When our faith is in God,
faith remains
because He remains.









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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Have You Ever Misplaced God?~

When God speaks to you,
His voice is louder than words.

It booms in the deepest place of you
and the reverberation is felt
in every part of your being.

It is unmistakable -
not to be missed.

I'll never forget the day God spoke to me -
while sitting on my patio,
heart deep in a women's Bible study.

As I took a drink of coffee and flipped the page,
the question waiting for me at the top of the next page,
came barging into my thoughts like a freight train.

"What is, or are, the things in your life that you associate with safety, peace, and pleasure?"*

Having just lost my husband to a heart attack several weeks prior to this page turning moment,
naturally his name was the automatic, didn't-have-to-think-about-it-for-a-second answer.

He was where I found my safety, peace, and pleasure. Yes. He was ALL of this to me.

Just thinking about my love made me smile,
stop for a moment,
and thank God for having given me this precious man to love and hold and call my own.

Then, moving on down the page,
only a paragraph or so more,
the eyes of my heart read this question:

How would you feel if God "repossessed" these things?

And, having just lost my husband several weeks prior to this question answering moment,
naturally the automatic, didn't-have-to-think-about-it-for-a-second answer that came shooting out of my mouth, out loud, and was immediately written in the margin of my book was this:

"I do feel this way!"

"Yes, Lord!
This is exactly what You did!
You repossessed my man!
Why, Lord?  Why?"

Immediately, thanksgiving turned to anger.
Joy turned to sorrow.
Praise turned into "How could You, Lord?"

My smile was swallowed up with my tears.

And for a moment,
I put the book down and just sat there,
consumed by all the emotions
welling up inside me.

Then,
I yelled . . . and God understood.
I vented  . . .  and God understood.
I questioned . . . and God understood.
I demanded an answer . . . and God understood.
I picked up the book again . . . and God spoke.

Through the words of the very next statement, I heard His voice that is louder than words.

Your response to that question reveals the degree to which your identity and sense of security is found in things from God rather than in God Himself.

Yes, when God speaks to you,
it booms in the deepest place of you
and the reverberation is felt
in every part of your being.

It is unmistakable -
not to be missed.

For the first time in my married life -
only now I was actually living "widowed" life -
I realized just how much of my safety, peace, and pleasure was wrapped up in my husband.

His presence now gone from my life
left me feeling vulnerable, distressed, and in the pit of depression.
His absence now unmistakably felt in my life
left me feeling unguarded, unstable, and undone.
His missing from me and my life
left me feeling like everything else in my life was missing, too.

He was gone -
but,
my God was still here.

"Oh, Lord. Did I place my husband above you?  Did I find in him and through him what I should have found in and through You? Did I place my safety, peace, and pleasure in the precious gift given to me by You, more than I did in You, the Giver of the gift?"

God didn't have to speak.
The answer was reverberating through my entire being.

And while, naturally,
a wife is supposed to find safety, peace, and pleasure in the presence of her husband,
if these things had first and ultimately been placed in God,
then the loss of my husband would still be felt, no doubt,
but the all-encompassing presence of my God would still be felt supernaturally, as well.

I trusted God.
I put my safety in God.
I found pleasure in God.
I did.

But, until my husband was no longer with me,
I didn't realize HOW MUCH I relied on his physical presence in my life.

And I think sometimes,
without us even realizing it,
without us even meaning to,
without us even vaguely aware that we are -
we take the precious gifts God gives us -
our mother and father,
our husband or wife,
our children and grandchildren,
our homes,
our jobs,
our bank accounts,
our talents and abilities,
and we love them
so fiercely and so naturally
that sometimes,
when they are no longer here,
then and only then,
we realize the place they were given in our life.

They are gifts -
precious, never to be replaced, love and appreciate with our whole heart gifts -
but if it wasn't for the Giver of all good gifts,
we would never have had them.

We must never allow the gift to become more precious to us than the Giver.
We must never allow our
safety,
peace,
pleasure,
faith,
happiness,
joy,
contentment,
or reason for living
to be totally wrapped up in the "gift".

When God decides to repossess one of His treasures,
it hurts,
It shatters our world.
It changes everything.
But, God.

We are heartbroken.
We yell.
We vent.
We question.
We demand an answer.
And, God understands.

But, God also speaks.

In words we cannot miss
and in ways that are unmistakable, He speaks.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
~Mark 12:30

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.
~Matthew 6:33

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
~ Matthew 6:21

Looking down at the Bible study open across my lap,
my heart was overcome by my love for my God.

To give me such a gift as my husband.
To understand my deepest emotions as no one else can.
To speak His words straight to my heart.
To remind me in the midst of it all that
He sees,
He cares,
He knows.

"What is, or are, the things in your life that you associate with safety, peace, and pleasure?"

May it be You, Lord.
May it always and completely be You, Lord.





* Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything, by Jennifer Rothschild, pg. 54








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Monday, April 17, 2017

Hidden in the Cherries~

I've never thought about cherries and death 
in the same thought before. 
Really, do you suppose anyone has? 

And yet, one day, 
as I was picking cherries from our cherry tree, 
these two things - cherries and death - 
were tumbling over and over in my mind and blending together.


Trying to intermingle them both in the same thought
might seem like quite a stretch.
But honestly,
in this place of grieving,
trying to make sense in my mind
of what often times seems senseless to my heart,
is truly the greatest stretch of all.
I hadn't planned to pick the cherries.

What started out as me simply grabbing the hose
so I could give the turtles some water,
led me to the side of the house and the cherry tree.

Reaching down to grab the nozzle of the hose,
 I found myself looking up from under a canopy of green leaves,
dotted with cherries.
IMG_7044
Not ripe cherries.
Not quite ready to pick cherries.
And yet, cherries red enough to be attracting birds
who were willing to take a test bite
to see if these cherries were "done".
"Crazy birds.
Only a peck on this one
and a little bite on that one.
Just enough to ruin the entire cherry!
These aren't ready to be picked yet.
They could stay on the tree a little bit longer,
but in order to save them from the birds,
I think we should go ahead and pick them now."
My husband had spoken these words
to me last year.
And, the year before that.
And the year before that.

Standing here now,
in my heart,
I could hear him speaking them again as plain as yesterday.
So, I pulled the hose around to the back of the house,
filled up the water dish for the turtles,
and then headed back to the tree.
And, that's when it hit me:
This out of the blue notion of cherries and death
somehow fitting together,
somehow helping me take the broken pieces of my heart
and fit them back together in a way that made sense.
As I stood on tiptoes,
grabbing hold of one the highest branches
and pulling it down to me,
I felt my spirit reaching up
as far as it could stretch
trying to grasp a precious spiritual truth.

As I  began to pluck each untouched, unmarred cherry
still clinging to the branch,
my memory was pricked by a scripture
I had pondered over 22 years ago
when my husband's sister passed away of cancer
at the young age of 46.
Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. ~Isaiah 57:1
As this long-forgotten scripture resurfaced in my heart,
I heard the words my sweetheart had spoken year after year.
"Crazy birds.
Only a peck on this one and a little bite on that one.
Just enough to ruin the entire cherry!
These aren't ready to be picked yet.
They could stay on the tree a little bit longer,
but in order to save them from the birds,
I think we should go ahead and pick them now."
And, I thought about my man.
61.
Not young, but certainly not old.
In my humble human opinion,
not quite yet ready to be picked.
If it had been up to me,
I would have loved for my handsome honey
to stay on this earth quite a bit longer.
Could it be -
the words of Isaiah -
words that might possibly have applied to his sister,
quite possibly applied to him, as well?
Could it be,
God,
in His mercy and tender kindness
was protecting my love from the evil yet to come?
As I bent branches low,
and plucked one unripe cherry after another,
I couldn't stop wiping one tear after another.

And, I tried to understand the timing of harvest ---
taking now to prevent what might happen then.
Taking too soon before it becomes too late.
And, while it might be a stretch -
a huge stretch indeed,
to mingle cherries and death in a spiritual way,
this new revelation brought peace to my heart.
It eased the heartache of missing my man just a bit.

It opened the eyes of my heart
to see a sliver of blessing
peeking out between the dark clouds of sorrow and grief.

It caused me to look deeper,
to understand greater,
to appreciate stronger the heart of our God.
"He died way too soon."
"His life ended way before it should have."
"He was taken too early."
Written in cards of sympathy,
spoken to me at his service,
shared with me even still,
these words always accompany news of his passing.

And until then,
until I stood beneath our cherry tree,
plucking cherries that weren't quite ripe,
these words hurt.
But now,
I saw them from a different angle.
I saw them as a reminder of the goodness of our Heavenly Father.
I saw them as proof of His tender love for His children.
I saw them as a most precious gesture of protection and watchcare.
I saw them as words that bring healing and comfort.
And maybe,
 just maybe,
this connection between cherries and death,
this brand new way of seeing
the ageless love of my Heavenly Father,
is a beautiful step in me
finding peace in the pain.






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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Turn the Page~

Maybe where you are is a Romans 7 kind of place.

You know, a place of struggle between knowing what is right and actually doing it and knowing what is not and walking away.  Chances are, if you do find yourself in this place, you are probably feeling very alone in your struggle.  And yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Romans 7, particularly verses 14-24, is a very crowded chapter of the Bible.  There is not one person alive (or dead for that matter) who has not found his or her self smack dab in the middle of these verses, front and center in this spiritual battle, overwhelmed and overwrought with the fight between the flesh and the Spirit. Not once, not twice, but over and over and over again.

The struggle is real.

We know that the Law is right and good, but I am a person who does what is wrong and bad. 
I am not my own boss. Sin is my boss. 
I do not understand myself. 
I want to do what is right but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 
When I do the thing I do not want to do, it shows me that the Law is right and good. 
So I am not doing it. Sin living in me is doing it. 
I know there is nothing good in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do good but I do not. 
I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I am always doing the sinful things I do not want to do. 
If I am always doing the very thing I do not want to do, it means I am no longer the one who does it.
It is sin that lives in me. 
This has become my way of life: When I want to do what is right, I always do what is wrong. 
My mind and heart agree with the Law of God. 
But there is a different law at work deep inside of me that fights with my mind. 
This law of sin holds me in its power because sin is still in me. 
There is no happiness in me!
Who can set me free from my sinful old self? 
God’s Law has power over my mind, but sin still has power over my sinful old self.
~ Romans 7:14-25a

I thank the Lord for these words of Paul - words that remind me I am not alone.

And, neither are you.

Oh, Satan will do his best to make you think you are.
He will spread on a layer of guilt and shame so thick you won't be able to see through it to those of us sharing this place with you.

And worst of all, He will try to keep you
stuck in these verses,
stuck in the hopelessness you feel,
stuck in a place that seems to have defeat written blatantly on every wall holding your prisoner.

(Dictionary.com defines blatant as tastelessly conspicuous. Sounds like the work of Satan to me!)

But, here's the thing.

The way to break free from the Roman 7 places in our life is to keep moving forward, -
to not sit down,
to not break down,
to not give up,
to not give in.

Victory is waiting for us in the next few verses.
Victory is waiting for us if we are willing to get back up and run to The Truth who can save us.
Victory is waiting for us in and through Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God I can be free through Jesus Christ our Lord!
~ Romans 7:25b

And, our victory doesn't end there even though Chapter 7 of Romans does.
When we keep moving forward,
when we keep on keeping on,
when we keep getting back up and moving ahead in and through Jesus Christ our Lord,
when we press on past Romans 7 and turn the page into Romans 8,
we discover this:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 
And because you belong to him, 
the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
~Romans 8:1-2
{Photo Source}

Yes, the struggle may be real.
But, thank God, so is the power of our God.

No matter how difficult the struggle,

no matter how alone you  may feel,

no matter how great
the load of guilt and shame,

no matter what,

no matter how,

don't stay stuck in the Romans 7 places of your life.

Head straight to Jesus who is waiting with open arms.
Head straight to His Spirit
who is armed and dangerous and ready to do battle with the enemy of your soul.
Head straight to the next chapter where you are reminded of this unbelievable, undeniable truth:

The flesh is no match for His Spirit
And, guilt is no match for His grace.






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Monday, April 10, 2017

Beauty Unlike Any Other~

To an unknowing eye,
it looks anything but beautiful.
But, when you know the heart
behind the one
who did it,
it is beauty unlike any other.

For the last few days,
on again, off again,
an afternoon here and a quick hour or so there,
I have been meticulously hand-picking wood chips -
millions upon millions -
from our rock landscaping.

It's a natural thing that happens
when you marry a mountain-loving man
and move him into your desert home,
surrounded by a yard full of rocks
where pine trees and wildflowers should be.

It's what can be expected
when you marry a wood-hauling, wood-chopping man
and place him in a place
where the only place he can chop wood is
the place where only rocks upon rocks can be seen.

Only now -
they can't.
Only now -
they are buried under wood chip after wood chip after wood chip.

To an unknowing eye,
it looks anything but beautiful.
I know this because comments from well-meaning people have spoken it loud and clear.

"I'd be happy to help you with this.
It won't be hard to move this wood and get this yard looking manicured and neat again"

And while I appreciate the gesture,
I truly do,
these insignificant wood chips,
in their own way,
symbolize more than an "unkept, untidy yard."
They symbolize the very heart of my man.
They are more precious to me than anyone would ever imagine.

And yet,
since not everyone sees them in the same way I do,
and since I may need to think about selling our home and putting down new roots,
I have found myself
on bended knee,
crawling through the rocks,
picking up wood chip after wood chip.

Surprisingly, this hasn't been the arduous chore
you might possibly think it would be.
Quite the opposite, in fact.

When my knees start to feel the unflinching hardness of the rock beneath,
or my back starts to feel the strain of the stretch of bending over,
or my fingers feel the prick of a splinter,
I smile and remember the reason all these wood chips are here.

If it wasn't for my man,
if it wasn't for his love of the mountains,
if it wasn't for his love of a cozy fire on a cold evening,
if it wasn't for his love for me and us sharing a home,
I wouldn't be doing this.

When my heart remembers his heart,
picking up wood chips becomes a labor of love.

And most surprisingly of all,
it is in this lowly position
of knees bent on stony rock
that my heart has been able to see the love of my Jesus
from a view unseen and unnoticed until now.

During His life on earth,
Jesus meticulously and painstakingly followed the path
laid out for Him before the foundation of the world.

It's a naturally thing that happens
when the Lover of our soul
moves into a sinful world,
surrounded by people full of stony hearts
where hearts of flesh and love should be.

It's what can be expected
when you take a heart-loving, soul-saving Savior
and place Him in a place
where the only place He can save a soul
is the place where only a cross will do.

To an unknowing eye,
the cross of Calvary looks anything but beautiful.
We know this because comments from well-meaning people have spoken it loud and clear.

For the message of the cross is foolishness [absurd and illogical] to those who are perishing and spiritually dead [because they reject it], but to us who are being saved [by God's grace] it is [manifestation of] the power of God.
~1 Corinthians 1:18 (Amp)

And yet,
when His heart broke as He saw His mother weeping,
when His spirit pleaded "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing,"
when His flesh tore and His blood flowed,
when His body bore the weight of the sins of the entire world,
He remembered why He had walked here among us,
why He was now hanging upon these two wooden beams.

If it wasn't for His want to take our stony hearts and replace them with a heart of flesh,
if it wasn't for His desire to give us life and life more abundant,
if it wasn't for His passion to free us from the grip of sin and death,
if it wasn't for His purpose to ransom and redeem His people,
if it wasn't for His all-consuming love for you and me,
if it wasn't for His surrendered will to His Heavenly Father,
He wouldn't have done it.

When His heart remembered each of our hearts,
enduring the suffering and the shame of the cross
became a labor of love.

To an unknowing eye,
the cross of Calvary looks anything but beautiful.
But, when you know the heart
behind the one
who hung upon it,
it is beauty unlike any other.









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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Praise that Raised the Roof~

Yesterday, God had me raising the roof with my praise.
Here's why.

Several high wind days,
combined with one horrific hail storm,
led to . . .

A phone call from my elderly neighbor
which began with
 "Please forgive me for intruding upon your business"
and included
"Your roof is in extreme need of repair"
and ended with
"Give your insurance agent a call".

This,
combined with my follow through
and God's gracious favor
led to . . .

Money in my pocket for the repair,
but not a clue one as to
who to call to do the needed work
and the question I wished
I knew the answer to:
"Who would my Handsome Honey call?"

The need to know who he would call
without actually knowing
kept me from calling anyone for two more months.

Finally on Monday,
I stepped out on a recommendation from a trusted friend.
With a name in front of me,
I prayed,
picked up the phone,
called for an appointment for an estimate,
and prayed again.

Someone was scheduled to come to my house on Wednesday.

Monday night,
as I rested my head on my pillow,
I prayed still.

"Lord, is this the right person?
Who would my Handsome Honey call?
Who would he want doing the work on our house?
Please Lord, show me."

Within minutes of praying, a name came to my mind.
It was the name of a man my husband had called years before
when he had thought about getting some work done on our roof.
A man my husband had first met at a Christian Business Men's breakfast.
The Lord had been faithful to hear my prayer and bring to my memory
this man,
this name,
this perfect reminder from the past.

Early Tuesday morning,
I arranged for this man to come for an estimate as well.
As God would have it,
the man mentioned in my prayer
showed up yesterday,
while the first man was already on my roof getting some measurements which
led to . . .

"Ma'am, if you have Mike on your roof already,
I wouldn't look any further.
I don't even need to give you an estimate
because we would only be pennies apart.
He runs a reliable, honest company.
He's been in business for years and
he does quality work.
No - I wouldn't look anywhere else."
And with that,
the second man was gone as quick as he had come.

It wasn't the voice of my husband,
but it was the voice of one my husband had trusted years before,
one who I remembered my husband had helped with a job years before,
one who - while they worked each day on this job -
would listen to the Bible on cassette with my man
as together they encouraged each other in the Lord.
It was all the confirmation my heart needed.

But wait -
the story doesn't end there.

Later that same evening,
the man mentioned in my prayer stopped by.
He didn't know my husband had died,
but something I said while he was here that morning
made him think that maybe, yes, he had.
He came back to find out what happened,
to pay his respects,
to see if I was ok or in need of anything,
and to give me peace about going with the first contractor.

I shared with him that as I had prayed Monday night
God had brought his name to my mind.
With a tear in his eye,
he said he was honored God would choose to use him
to answer my prayer,
to show me the way to go,
to encourage me to have complete peace about my decision.

Then, this trusted friend of my husband,
took off his cap and asked if he could pray for me.

His prayer was simple, beautiful, and heartfelt:
Lord, thank you for using me today.
Lord, thank you that You have promised to take care of Your children
and that You have been and will continue to watch over and care for Stacy.
Lord, direct her steps.
Continue to show her clearly, just like You did today,
the way she should go,
the choices she should make.
Let Your peace flood her heart as she leans on You,
and trusts Your guidance and leading in her life.
Thank you that I knew her husband
and that together we grew in our walk with You, Lord.
We praise You, Father.
Amen."

And just like that, once again,
he was gone as quick as he had come.

But the peace in my heart -
it is here, still.

And the praise that flowed from my heart last night,
well let's just say,
it completely raised the roof!









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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When Faith Stays~

We stand,
my precious friend and I,
sand underneath us,
howling wind around us,
and the Atlantic Ocean in front of us.

With the temperature hovering in the 20's,
it's not beach weather,
and yet.
on this day,
it seems the perfect place to be.

Because you see,
five months before,
we had stood,
my two precious sisters and I,
on the balcony of our hotel room,
sand underneath us,
howling wind around us,
and the Pacific Ocean in front of us.

As I stood at Cannon Beach, Oregon,
only months after losing my husband,
I surrendered to the Lord's leading.
I chose to let go of my job and trust my Heavenly Father.
(You can read about that HERE and HERE.)

Now,
five short months later,
God had brought me to the other side of the United States.
"From sea to shining sea," my friend had said.

Standing on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware,
I stood in awe of all my God had done
in me,
for me,
through me,
in spite of me.

I thought of what would have happened
if I would have said "no",
if I would have chosen to please man and not God,
if I would have picked security over surrender,
if I would have succumbed to fear instead faith.

"I admire your faith, Stac," my friend says,
as we weather this cold, wintery moment together.

And, instantly,
I begin to explain
that what has found me
standing on this beach,
after having first spent the weekend
standing up behind a pulpit in Wilmington,
speaking of God's faithfulness,
(the very reason I am in Delaware in the first place)
is only and completely God's grace.

"Oh, Amy, how I wish I could say
the dearest desire of my heart 
had been to grow in my faith with God.  
How I wish I could say
I fasted and prayed for 40 days 
pleading with God to give me the kind of faith that lets go.

But, I can't.

Honestly,
I just found myself thrown into a situation 
I didn't ask for,
I didn't see coming,
I didn't want anything to do with.
I lost my husband to a heart attack.
I lost my job because I lost my husband.
I didn't do anything.

God did everything."

And, it's true.

When the rug of all that was my life
was ripped out from underneath me,
God was there.

When I didn't know what, didn't know how,
didn't know why, when or where,
God was there.

When I didn't feel as though I had a faith to stand on,
God stirred up the measure of faith I had been given
and it sprouted up in ways I could never have imagined.

Grace caught me.
Grace held me.
Grace carried me,
until,
tear after tear,
prayer after prayer,
day after day after day,
faith began to grow from the soil of sorrow, heartbreak, and brokenness.

The me who stood on the edge of the Pacific Ocean
was not the same me
who was now standing on the edge of the Atlantic.

The journey from sea to shining sea,
the five months in between,
the days from letting go to being overwhelmingly held -
all a true testimony to God's faithfulness.

It's why I can keep saying "yes".
It's why I can keep letting go.
It's why I can keep standing up and telling of His goodness.
It's why I can keep "being still" when I
don't know what,
don't know how,
don't know why, when, or where.

And I've learned,
sometimes,
in the fragile moments of life,
faith isn't so much about what you do;
it's about what you don't do.

You don't give up.
You don't give in.
You don't run away.
You don't throw in the towel.

You stay.

And,
when you do,
faith not only stays with you,
it gently takes you by the hand,
and carries you through.









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Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Reminder in the Wind~

"At least the wind isn't blowing."

If I had a dime
for each and every time
I heard my precious grandma utter these words,
I would be one rich lady.

Every time we visited this sweet momma of my daddy,
she always said,
"It's a pretty nice day today, isn't it? At least the wind isn't blowing."

Unless, of course, the wind was.
Like today.

The wind started early this morning.
As I lowered the kitchen window
just a bit
to keep some of the dust outside and not in,
I was reminded of her words.

And I wondered,
what was it about the wind
that had my Grandma classifying days as "nice" or "not so nice"
simply because of this invisible,
yet unmissable force of nature?

It's possible that a dislike of wind might be hereditary
because I'm not a fan of wind either,
and yet,
when the wind blows,
and I feel the angst of it rise up inside me,
I remind myself it has a purpose.

Here in the desert southwest,
the wind ushers in much needed rain.
Long before a raindrop falls to the ground,
trees bend and sway
as wind announces "rain is on the way."

And, here in the Spring
the wind swirls pollen in the air like confetti.
Seeds that hold the newness of life
ride on its current and find their way to a new beginning.

Wind.
Unseen, but definitely not unnoticed.
Unexplainable, but definitely not without an explanation.

And maybe, just maybe,
this is the reason -
in the spiritual world,
wind and the Holy Spirit are synonymous.

Here in a spiritually parched world,
the Holy Spirit ushers in much needed latter rains.
Long before a heart responds to His invitation,
situations and circumstances bend and sway
as the Holy Spirit announces "revival is on the way".

And, here in the Spring season of the "new thing" God is doing,
the Holy Spirit hovers over dead places.
Lives that yearn to be born anew, born again,
feel His breath and breathe in
love,
joy,
peace,
patience,
gentleness,
kindness,
faithfulness,
self-control,
grace,
salvation,
redemption,
LIFE!

The Holy Spirit.
Unseen, but definitely not unnoticed.
Unexplainable, but definitely not without explanation.

Even though
I can't see the wind blowing today,
I can't deny that it is.

Even though
we can't always see the Holy Spirit moving,
we can't deny that He is.

Unlike the physical force of wind,
that finds me wishing it away much like my Grandma,
I am in love with the spiritual force of His Spirit,
which finds me welcoming it and inviting it in.

And,
while the determination that wind
can either make a bad day good or a good day bad
is a matter of personal opinion and preference,
there is no arguing that the Holy Spirit
is what makes every moment of every day
beyond nice,
beyond good,
beyond anything we could even think or ever hope to imagine!

"At least the wind isn't blowing."

Today, it is.
And, surprisingly, I am more than fine with the fact that it is.

Today it is a physical reminder of a preciously, powerful spiritual presence
in our world,
in my life,
in my very soul.

Today it is a physical reminder of an invisible, yet unmissable spiritual force in my life
that I can't afford to miss,
that I can't ever begin to live without.

Today, the wind is blowing.

May the Holy Spirit always be.

Blow, Holy Spirit, blow.










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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In the Shadow of Hope~

I sit on the patio well past the moment dark first arrives.

Maybe it's because I am waiting for my man to come to the sliding glass door as he always did.

"Hey, Beautiful.  Are you going to sleep out there, too?"
Then, after giving me that cute look of his, this.
"Here, let me help you bring your laptop and all the rest of you back inside for the night."

When the beautiful of Spring would unfold,
I would always squeeze every last bit of daylight out of the day
and even indulge in some moments of night
because I knew he would always come.

Now, the dark just keeps getting darker.
And my heart still misses him so much, at times,
I wonder if this journey of grief will ever feel different.

It's why words here have been few and far between these first few months of 2017.
It's why God has had me on the road, in a plane, and out and about
speaking of His faithfulness at churches and retreats.

Home - well, it isn't home.
It just isn't.
And no matter how long I sit on this patio -
my Handsome Honey isn't going to come and help me back inside.

It's life,
or the death part of life -
and my head totally gets it.

It's my heart that still wrestles with it all,
on and off,
now and then,
more times than not.

But, honestly,
I'm ok with the battle between the two
because eventually,
the battle becomes so intense a referee is needed,
and thankfully,
each time,
God steps in and does what only He can do.

His sweet Spirit,
knowing my heart better than even my love,
gently draws me to Him,
and helps me find my way back.

Back inside.
Back to what now is.
Back to the reality that even though I feel so very alone,
I am not
because the great I AM is here.

And this same beautiful of Spring
that has me out on the patio in the first place,
is the same beautiful my heart needs to embrace
time and time again.

For just like tulips now risen from well beneath the ground,
Spring reminds us of the blessed hope we have in and through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

And just like today,
on a day when I hate to see night come,
I know if I trust God through the dark,
morning is right around the corner.

Death takes from us the one we love
but it can never take from us
what the Lover of our Soul did for us on Calvary.

Death reminds us of the separation
between this earth and our eternal home,
but it cannot separate us from
the love of our Heavenly Father
here,
now,
always.

Death leaves us wishing for more -
and thankfully
because of the
death and resurrection of our precious Jesus,
we have the beautiful of more coming.

God willing,
tomorrow I will get more hours of daylight.

And soon,
you and I will know the ultimate more we have been promised -

a more that will find us reunited with those who we miss
with a missing that doesn't seem to end,

a more that will find us face to face with The One who we
have longed to worship and adore for all eternity.

Weeping may endure for a night,
but joy comes in the morning.
~Psalms 30:5

But now,
now it's time for me to let God help me make my way back inside.

And now,
it's time for me to let God help me with my laptop
and finding my way back here
to my keyboard once again, too.

And now,
it's time for me to let God bring all the rest of me
back to where I belong while I wait for the promised more  . . .
abiding and trusting in Him.









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Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Move of God~

As the plane taxied down the Las Vegas runway,
the reality
of where I was,
of what I was launching into,
of what was up ahead
began to swell up inside me.

So much so, in fact,
that as soon as we were airborne,
with our next stop being Philadelphia,
the reality of it all
exploded in tears.

"What was I thinking!?"
"What was my dear friend, Amy, thinking when she encouraged me to say "yes"!?
"What was the women's ministries director thinking when she extended the invitation!?"
"What was God thinking!?"

"Was anybody thinking!?  
Me, the speaker for this women's event?! 
Are you kidding me?!
How can this be happening?!"

And yet, it was.

It is one thing to say "yes";
it is another to act on it.
And, it was acting on it that had this New Mexico girl
sitting on a plane bound for the East coast
feeling unbelievably excited
and crazy scared all at the same time.

With a million and one things to say rolling around in my mind,
and yet,
not one thing specific to talk about,
here I sat,
doing what I do when I am overwhelmed,
wiping one tear after another.

Fast forward to four days later,
when once again
I found myself seated on a plane.

This time the plane was taking me home,
and this time,
as the plane went airborne,
just like before,
a sea of tears made their way down my cheeks.

And, I cried and cried and cried.
(My poor seatmates!)
I was completely overwhelmed by the faithfulness of my God.

Who,
when I had said "yes" had taken over from that moment on.

Who,
when I didn't know what to say,
spoke word after word after word.

Who,
when I couldn't possibly know how to relate to the hearts I was speaking to,
drew them by His Spirit to relate to Himself in a new and deeper way.

Who,
when I only knew how to show up and be present and do the best that I can,
showed up in all of His glory and presented His truth as only He can.

Who,
when I was willing,
did.

Who,
when I obeyed,
blessed.

Who
when I sat crying tears on the first plane ride
knew I would be crying tears on the second one.

With a million and one reasons to thank God rolling around in my heart,
and yet,
not one thing I could say to adequately express
what He had done,
what He had been,
here I sat,
doing what I do when I am overwhelmed,
wiping one tear after another.

And I was reminded once again of this truth:

If we want to see
a move of God,
we have to position our self
in a place where 
a move of God
is all and everything
we are depending on.

And, if we do-
our God will move.

"Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord of hosts.
~Zechariah 4:6








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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Faith Says "Yes"~










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Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Light~










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Friday, January 27, 2017

A Season of Transition~

I thought it was the oddest place to be.

Well, maybe odd isn't the correct word,
but honestly,
when I tried to think of a word to describe the place I am now,
no word seemed to fit.

I realized this Wednesday night.

Seated in a room with twenty-five women,
all of us expectant as to what God would do over the course of the next 7 weeks
as we launched into a new Bible study together,
the facilitator asked us to take turns introducing ourself to the group.

"It doesn't have to be a lot.
Just tell us your name,
if your married,
if you have children or grandchildren,
where you work."

Thankfully, we started from the end of the circle farthest from where I was sitting.

It's not often that I find myself in a new place where introductions are needed.
And yet, in times past, when I have
I could usually answer at least 3 of the "mentioned suggestions" for introduction:
I had a name.
I had a husband.
I had a job.

This time around, I realized
(a slap of reality when I least expected it)
all I had was a name.

That's it.
A name,
Stacy Sanchez.

I love my name,
but it would take me less than 2 seconds to say it.
Then, what?

And, I know,
(and I hope you do, too)
we are all so much more than
our name,
our marital status,
our role as a parent or grandparent,
or our occupational title.

But, when this is the "norm",
the way we let others know who we are,
what do you say?

And, it's amazing,
how so many times,
when we think we are the ones being called upon to speak,
that it is God, Himself, using our very own words to speak to us.

My turn finally came.

"Ok, God," I whispered in my heart. "You're on. Please give me the words."

"Hi, my name is Stacy Sanchez
and I am in a season of transition.
I lost my husband 11 months ago,
and because of issues involved with losing him,
I lost my job several months later.
Right now, I am simply being still and waiting for God to show me what is next
after this season of transition.
I am so happy to be here."

The lady beside me began her introduction
and I hate to admit it,
but I have no idea what she said.

God was speaking, arresting my thoughts with the words "season of transition".

"Season of transition?" I thought.  "Lord, where did that phrase come from?"

And I felt God whisper, "Just tuck it in your heart, sweet girl.  Tuck it safely in your heart."

Fast forward to today, this evening, just an hour ago.

With a meal in front of me,
I had decided to sit in the living room,
a Christian television program as my dinner companion.

As I took one bite after another
and listened to one word after another of this spiritual teaching,
God, unexpectedly
(although with the Lord we should expect nothing less!)
gave me a familiar phrase to digest.

"This is for everyone who is in a season of transition.  God is simply using this season to transition you into your God-ordained destination. God is simply moving you from what has been your current identity to what will become your future destiny.  Don't think that where you are now is where you are going to stay.  Transition itself speaks of change."

I put my fork down.
I pushed my meal aside.
For the next hour,
I listened as this pastor gave one example after another,
from God's Holy Word,
of the principle of transition and God-ordained destination.

David,
who transitioned from tending sheep to tending the children of Israel.

Joseph,
who transitioned from a pit, to a palace, to a prison, back to the palace.

Elisha,
who transitioned from plowing a field to plowing hearts using a double portion of God's Spirit.

And more than who I had ever been before,
God started to reveal to me
who I was becoming.

More than
my name,
my marital status (is widow a marital status?)
my lack of children and grandchildren,
my lack of an occupational title,
God showed me who I was becoming
in Him,
through Him,
because of Him.

There is something about speaking
what God says about who you are
outloud
that has an enormous
power releasing,
faith infusing,
hope rising
effect.

"Hi, my name is Stacy Sanchez 
and I am in a season of transition."

No longer did this sound weak to me.
No longer did this sound like someone floundering through life.
No longer did this sound without purpose or without hope.

And, I guess I am saying all of this,
to simply say this:

It's not so much about where we've been,
as it is about where we are going.

God is always doing a new thing.
He is Creator-God.
Creating, re-creating, -
this is what God does.

And really,
if we stop and think about it -
isn't our entire life
one season of transition
weaved together with
another season of transition
weaved together with
another season of transition,
on and on and on?

Isn't God,
in His creative, redemptive power,
lovingly and intentionally,
taking us from season to season,
so that in Him and through Him,
He might also take us from glory to glory? 

"Hi, my name is Stacy Sanchez
and I am in a season of transition."

I don't know what your name might be,
but if you are in a season of transition,
let me shake your hand,
and welcome you to the club.

"I am so happy to be here."









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